A controversial surveillance bill, described by Edward Snowden as the "the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy," has been approved by UK MPs.
The Investigatory Powers Bill, commonly known as the Snooper’s Charter, has been granted Royal Ascent, meaning it is now UK law.
The Bill will dramatically extend the lawful powers of the Home Office to collect data on citizens, including the web history of everyone in the UK.
Phone and internet companies will be legally bound to store records for 12 months as well as offer access to the police, government agencies and security services.
In a post on Gov.UK, the Home Office explained the bill “creates one new power: the introduction of Internet Connection Records, which will be accessible by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies to disrupt terrorist attacks and prosecute suspects.”
In effect, the bill coming into law also legalises hacking for the purposes of bulk data collection.
The government says a number of checks and balances have also been introduced, with judges' approval required for “the most intrusive powers,” while a “powerful” new Commissioner will be appointed to assure the powers are not being abused.
There’ll also be “new protections for journalistic and legally privileged material” that will supposedly protect reporters' sources.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd was in bullish mood after the law was approved by 440 Members of Parliament.
“The Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation, that provides unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection," she said.
“The government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement and security and intelligence services have the power they need to keep people safe. The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight.”
The Bill is already being opposed by a petition containing 139,000 signatures, which means it will need to be debated by Parliament.
A leading critic of the legislation, Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group wrote: “Now that the bill has passed, there is renewed concern about the extent of the powers that will be given to the police and security agencies.
“In particular, people appear to be worried about new powers that mean our web browsing activity can be collected by internet service providers and viewed by the police and a whole range of government departments. Parliament may choose to ignore calls for a debate but this could undermine public confidence in these intrusive powers.”
The legislation will replace the existing Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, which had been due to expire on December 31.
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